Waking up every morning to the global routine of scrolling through your phone is a habit that can be hard to brush off. At times like this, it's important to be reminded to enjoy the present, and take moments away from screentime to treasure being around loved ones and reconnect with oneself. Born and raised in Rome, Sophie Minchilli is an American-Italian author who recently published her new book: The Sweetness of Doing Nothing: Live Life the Italian Way with Dolce Far Niente, documenting her love and appreciation for all the little and hidden, yet at the same time beautiful, aspects of Italy. Here, Minchilli shares with us her top 5 Southern Italian philosophies for everyday life that explore the different ways to better connect with ourselves, families and our surroundings.
1) Eat More Pasta
Somehow pasta has been completely demonised when talking about weight loss and diets. But in Italy pasta is not the enemy, and eating it everyday (or almost), is the only diet we know. Eaten in moderation, pasta can actually be good for you, but in Italy it’s so much more than a source of calories and carbohydrates; it’s family, it’s lunch breaks and it’s the closest thing to love (for me). Cooking up a big plate of pasta for someone else is also a great sign of love. In Italy, one of the best ways to let someone know you care for them, is to cook food for them, because it shows that you took the time and effort to leave them feeling full and happy. Try bringing joy into your life the Italian way by incorporating some pasta in your weekly diet. We only live once and so we should also enjoy life through the food that makes us happy.
2) Have An Aperitivo
Try making a point of meeting up with a colleague or friend after work a couple of times a week for an aperitivo. In Italy, this is not so much about the food and drink, but a way for people to connect with each other while ‘disconnecting’ their brains after a long day at work. After spending countless summers in Southern Italy, I loved their tradition of a mid-morning aperitivo. Since it’s morning, it’s non-alcoholic, but it’s still a chance to take a small break from work and have a quick snack. If you can’t find a bar you like near your workplace or home, try hosting it at your place. It can be a quick nibble and drink or it can easily become a casual dinner by adding a few simple dishes.
3) Learn An Italian Card Game
Nothing says 'Southern Italy' like a group of people playing a card game for hours and hours. In Italy, people completely lose track of time doing this, usually sitting outside a coffee bar or social club. Card games are fun, but also benefit our emotional and mental health, keeping our minds active and away from our screens, and boosting our concentration skills. The most popular deck of cards in Italy is the ‘carte Napoletane’ (you can easily purchase a deck online), and if you want to learn a couple of our most traditional games, look up instructions for Scopa and Briscola (Briscola is my personal favourite, but Scopa is much easier for beginners!).
4) Spend Time With Someone Older Than You
One of my favourite things about the South of Italy (and Italy in general) is that there is no real age difference when it comes to socialising and making friends. Growing up here taught me to always respect my elders, regardless of whether or not they are related to me. I find great peace in listening to stories from someone older than me – it allows me to dream and takes my mind off things. If you see an older person sitting alone on a bench, stop and have a chat with them. They will most likely be more than happy to tell you a story that will make your day brighter and help you put things in perspective. I have been collecting Italy’s older generation’s stories by photographing and filming them on my Instagram page, and I consider all their stories great national treasures which I will cherish forever.
5) Create Your Own Sunday Tradition
If you’ve ever been to Italy, you might have noticed how quiet things get over here on Sundays. That’s because Sunday is a day for relaxing, taking things slow, long walks and eating endless meals. Sunday is Italy’s day to be lazy and indulge: after all, you only live once! Try making your own special pranzo della Domenica and invite your friends and family over to share a big meal. Enjoy four different courses: a mix of different antipasti, a pasta course followed by a meat dish and seasonal vegetables. Of course, don’t forget to drink plenty of wine and end the meal with one or two desserts (and an amaro to wash it all down). See how long you can manage to sit at the table, eating and laughing (my personal record one summer in Puglia was four and a half hours long.)
Images provided by Sophie Minchilli.